Public Radio International:
Oxford University psychologist Charles Spence studies human senses and how they interact.
In recent studies, he had people smell wines and sample chocolate, and then match the different aromas and flavors to different musical sounds. He found that people tend to associate sweet tastes with high-pitched notes and the sounds of a piano. People match bitter flavors with low notes and brass instruments.
Spence wondered if he could put his findings to use in reverse. Could he use music to influence what people smell or taste?
To find out, he conducted another study. He had volunteers eat several pieces of toffee while listening to music. One soundscape was composed of “sweet” sounds, the other of “bitter” sounds.
Spence asked the volunteers to rate the sweetness or bitterness of each piece of toffee. All of the toffee was the same, but the volunteers perceived the pieces differently.
“We were significantly able to change the rating of the bitterness and sweetness of the food depending on the sound they were listening to,” Spence said.
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